A research team at the Institute of Population Health Sciences of the National Health Research Institutes last week said anemia and a lack of vitamins B6 and B9 could be the leading causes of depression among older people.
The team found that those meeting all three conditions are 7.13 times more likely to suffer from depression.
The WHO estimates that depression will be the second leading cause of disability in the world by 2020, the team said, adding that depression in older people is often overlooked.
The research team, led by the institute’s Division of Preventive Medicine and Health Services Research director Pan Wen-harn (潘文涵), found that 31.4 percent of Taiwanese aged 65 and over are depressed.
They then conducted a study to determine if certain nutrients are linked to depression in older people, as some observational studies have already indicated that deficiencies of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 could be linked to depression.
The team concluded that borderline deficiencies of hemoglobin, serum ferritin, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9 and B12 were potential factors that might be associated with depression.
The team’s research showed that older people who are borderline anemic or have a borderline hemoglobin deficiency are 1.87 times more likely to be depressed and 1.44 times more likely to feel affected by negative emotions in their daily lives than those with normal hemoglobin levels.
People with a borderline vitamin B6 deficiency also have a 1.58 times higher likelihood of feeling depressed and 1.47 times higher risk of being negatively affected by emotions than those with sufficient vitamin B6.
The team said that when a senior has either a low hemoglobin level or low vitamin B9 level along with a vitamin B6 deficiency, coupled with hemoglobin and folic acid deficiencies, the risk of developing depression is between 2.32 and 7.13 times higher than normal.
“The production of neurotransmitters requires amino acids performing methylation reactions, which in turn require vitamins B2, B6, B12 and B9. Lacking any of these nutrients negatively impacts the renewal of neurotransmitters,” Pan said, adding that vitamin B6 and B9 deficiencies are particularly common among Taiwanese.
Pan added that having a balanced diet is crucial for older people.
“Having a chronic illness does not mean it is best to only eat vegetables, as proteins are equally important,” Pan said.